quantitative analysis of Georgia high school varsity soccer

Women's 2013 Championship Results

State Playoff Championship weekend should give us six of the highest quality soccer matches of the year. As of May 14, all finalists were ranked #1 and #2 in their Class except for Northgate (#4, replacing McIntosh) and Paideia-Fellowship Christian (#3-#6, replacing First Presbyterian and Hebron Christian).

While here at the end of a long season the Pitch Snitch analysis has the advantage of a lot of history, these aren’t typical game atmospheres. Emotions are extremely high, and we can’t anticipate how teams will respond to them. This year, four of the games went close to plan but the two others had surprising outcomes.

Harrison1-01 (0) - 1 (1)Parkview
St. Pius X2-11-0Blessed Trinity
Paideia4-23-2Fellowship Christian
(click school names for season performance charts)

Pregame analysis suggested that the Harrison-Parkview match would be the closest to a toss-up, with Harrison having a very slight edge. From the performance charts you can see that both schools enjoyed tremendous improvements in offense from the early season. Both defenses have been consistently impressive with Harrison reaching the All-Class defense top ranking just last week. With both teams entering the match at the peak of their game, neither team faltered. Tied 1-1 after overtime, Parkview picked up the title in a PK shootout. (Pitch Snitch analysis doesn’t include PK shootouts, so benchmarks represent the most likely score at the end of full sided play.) These are the two best public school women’s squads in the state of Georgia for 2013.

The Whitewater-Northgate game was not even close to its benchmark. Northgate was the slight underdog. Having ended last year’s 2012 season without even a State Playoff invitation, a Class 4A rank of 19 and an All-Class rank of 57, getting on the marquee for the 2013 5A championship game was a remarkable accomplishment. Whitewater, on the other hand, had a spectacular 2012 season culminating in not only the top ranking in Class 4A but the #1 All-Class rank as well! These two teams have also been region competitors with Whitewater winning 7-0 in 2012 at 4A and 1-0 in 2013 after both teams moved up to 5A. Whitewater’s defense stumbled significantly in 2013 though, yet they were still able to earn the top Playoff seed from Region 4. Coming off an above average defensive performance against Starr’s Mill, they were unable to sustain the momentum in the final and collapsed back to their mid season level, allowing Northgate’s improving offense to score four goals. Northgate’s defense had been a bit sub-par at the start of Playoffs but they were in good form when the pressure was highest. Northgate wins 4-1.

Class AAAA
Columbus, a 3A Playoff finalist last year, moved up to 4A this season and did quite well. Until they met Marist. Marist’s 5-0 victory over Columbus capped a Playoff run that included 40 goals scored, none allowed (the only 5 clean sheet performance in the tournament). Marist has been a top competitor in 4A for years. After 9 of last year’s top 10 4A teams (all except Marist) were moved to larger classes for 2013, Marist has completely dominated. And not only did their 4A competition lighten up considerably, Marist actually got better. Their All-Class Defense ranking moved from the mid twenties early in the season to their current 8th place. Their Attack rank, which was All-Class top 10 level throughout last season, took the #1 spot in March of this season and has held it ever since. Those improvements on both ends of the field, along with GAC’s loss to Westminster on Saturday, makes Marist the best overall women’s soccer team in Georgia this year.

Class AAA
The 3A championship game was the only final besides Harrison-Parkview in which both teams were All-Class top 10 ranked. Pius and Blessed Trinity have been perennial title favorites but in different classes. In their first season up at 3A, BT’s biggest asset was certainly their defense; they started their 2013 schedule with an amazing 12 consecutive shutouts. Game 13 was unlucky, as it was against Pius, and it was BT’s turn to get shutout 2-0. Pius was consistently strong on both attack and defense throughout the entire season, staying in the All-Class top 5 and sitting in the #1 slot just as the Playoffs began. In the Pius-BT rematch on championship night, BT’s defense fared better than in the April face-off, holding Pius to a single goal this time. However BT’s more modest attack was again unable to score. Pius 1-0.

Class AA
The second surprise of the night along with Northgate’s big win was Greater Atlanta Christian’s loss to Westminster in the 2A final. In previous seasons GAC and Blessed Trinity have battled for the 2A title but with BT moving to 3A in 2013, the mantle of challenger fell to Westminster. Westminster was in a four-game losing streak vs. GAC (the last defeat just 25 days ago) and had been outscored 15-3 over that run. GAC entered the game as the All-Class #1 team in Georgia, astonishing for a 2A size program. But just as with Whitewater’s loss, the favored team dropped their defenses and allowed Westminster three goals. Westminster played well on both ends and took the title 3-2.

Class A
While both teams (but in particular, Fellowship Christian) had some disappointments during the regular season, their Playoff performances were stellar. Each knocked off a more favored opponent along the way. Paideia elevated their All-Class Overall rank from #61 at the end of the regular season to their current #52 and Fellowship Christian rose from #102 to #82. Meeting for the first time this season on Saturday night, Paideia’s attack was off, allowing Fellowship Christian to take the game to overtime, but Paideia still picked up the 3-2 win.

Women's 2013 Championship Benchmarks

Benchmarks for the 2013 Women’s State Soccer Tournament championship matches are below. This analysis includes all 2,787 games played this year, from preseason through this past Tuesday’s semifinals. Benchmarks represent the scores that would result if both teams played at their average season levels.

St. Pius X21Blessed Trinity
Paideia42Fellowship Christian
(click school names for season performance charts)

Half the games are expected to be competitive enough to have a single-goal margin benchmark, however the Harrison - Parkview game is nearest to a tossup. Both bring incredibly impressive defenses which should hold the scoring down. In contrast, Whitewater and, to a lesser degree, Northgate, rely more heavily on their attack.

The Marist - Columbus and Paideia - Fellowship games appear to be less competitive as championships go, however these are the only two pairings that haven’t already met on the field this year, so there’s an extra element of uncertainty in the mix.

On Sunday I’ll return for the post-game comparisons.

Women's Semis Results

Ten of the twelve expected winners last night did in fact prevail. The only exceptions were Northgate’s defeat of McIntosh and Paideia’s win over First Presbyterian. Both games were anticipated to be close one-goal margin battles, and they were, albeit with the teams switching positions.

Parkview2-02-1South Forsyth
Harrison2-10 (1) - 0 (0)Brookwood
Whitewater3-23-1Starr’s Mill
Marist10-07-0Heritage (Cat.)
Blessed Trinity1-04-1Woodward
St. Pius X4-17-3Buford
Fellowship Christian5-22-1Aquinas
First Presbyterian2-11-2Paideia
(click school names for season performance charts)

Offense underperformed for both Harrison and Fellowship Christian and that nearly cost them their victories. It’s just as possible, though, that their low scoring was due to exceptionally strong defensive efforts from Brookwood and Aquinas. Blessed Trinity, which has been much more remarkable on defense than offense this season, brought extra guns for their attack on Woodward. And while the margin of victory in the Pius - Buford match was as expected, neither team’s defense played at their usual level. Both of those results suggest a different type of game for this Friday’s BT-Pius rematch compared with their encounter last month.

Region 6 Dominates Women's Final Four

Of the 24 women’s teams from six size classes that made it to tonight’s Final Four stage of the Georgia Soccer Tournament, here’s the breakdown by Region.

Region 61910
Region 4505
Region 2112
Region 5112
Region 7202
Region 8202
Region 3011
Region 1000

A concentration of talented private school programs puts Region 6 far ahead of the pack. South Forsyth is the only Region 6 public school that made it to the semis this year, and they compete up at the 6A level where no private schools exist. The nine privates range in class from 1A (Fellowship Christian) to 4A (Marist).

Running a distant second is Region 4 with five suburban public schools, all classified 5A or 6A.

The next five Regions are represented by just one or two schools each, and finally, Region 1 had no women’s teams reach the Final Four at any classification level.

Benchmarks for Tonight's Women's State Playoff Semis

The 2013 Women’s State Soccer Tournament Final Four matches start momentarily. Based on their full 2013 regular season performances, here’s what the analysis says would be the outcomes if both teams played their average game. They’re benchmarks, really. So, for example, even if Pius beats Buford as predicted, if the margin is less than 3 then Buford still had an above usual night or Pius had a below usual one.

Parkview20South Forsyth
Whitewater32Starr’s Mill
Marist100Heritage (Cat.)
Blessed Trinity10Woodward
St. Pius X41Buford
Fellowship Christian52Aquinas
First Presbyterian21Paideia

I’ll be back tomorrow to eat crow if needed. Even though over 2000 regular season games have gone into this, there wasn’t time to include the last few weeks of post-season play and that makes me a bit nervous. Harrison’s scare with Lassiter, South Forsyth’s surprising run, Woodward and Veterans each with three straight clean sheets, all would have shifted the calculations, but by how much? The benchmarks for Friday and Saturday’s finals will incorporate everything.

The 20 Best Women's Teams NOT In State Playoffs

This is the time of year when the 188 best high school soccer teams in the state (fully half the programs) face off in the Georgia State Playoffs, right?

Well, no. With six different size classes, it’s more like every class sends its best 32 (1A sends 24).

But that’s not true either! Within each class only the top four (or top three in 1A) from each of the eight Regions get a Playoff invite. Regions are primarily designed to minimize travel costs, not to balance powerhouses. So some strong programs get left behind each year at Playoff time if they happen to be assigned to a talent-rich Region.

This year, based on analysis done to date, here are some of the best teams in each class that didn’t get one of the four slots in their Region but are still better than some Playoff-bound squads from weaker Regions.

Class 6A SchoolsRegion
Roswell High School 5
Centennial High School 6
Chattahoochee High School 6
Peachtree Ridge High School 7
Norcross High School 7
Woodstock High School 5

Nine of the top ten 6A women’s teams this year are in Regions 5, 6, and 7, making it much tougher to break through there. Additionally, due to a quirk in the state bracket design, Region 5-8 teams play each other during the first and second rounds. This means some high quality teams from these Regions will be sent home prematurely.

Class 5A SchoolsRegion
Union Grove High School 4
Kell High School 7
Creekview High School 7
Forsyth Central High School 7

Women’s 5A soccer is dominated by Regions 4 and 7.

Class 4A SchoolsRegion
Eagles Landing High School 4
Dalton High School 7

The very top of Class 4A is crowded with Region 5 and 6 teams but there’s also stiff competition in Regions 4 and 7. Eagles Landing and Dalton both got nudged out of the tournament this year even though they’ve got solid programs.

Class 3A SchoolsRegion
North Hall County High School 7
Morgan County High School8
Fannin County High School7
Franklin County High School8
Cross Keys High School6

Mostly Region 6 and 7 teams lead Class 3A and have made it tough for strong second-tier performers like North Hall, Fannin County, and Cross Keys.

Class 2A SchoolsRegion
Harlem High School 3
Murray County High School 7

Class 1A SchoolsRegion
Pinecrest Academy             6

Classes 2A and 1A are where many talented private programs compete against the smallest and most underfunded public schools. Greater Atlanta Christian, Lovett, Wesleyan, and Westminster are thankfully the only four teams in 2A Region 6 since they’re all strong contenders for the Final Four and not many other teams could stand a chance at even getting to the Playoffs from that Region. Outside Region 6 the quality drops off precipitously but if we’re going to send 32 2A teams, I think a case could be made that Harlem and Murray County should be amongst them.

Conversely, Class 1A probably has as many above-state-average programs as Class 3A or 4A yet they restrict their playoff to only three per Region (or Area, as they say). Pinecrest Academy was a victim of that restriction this year.